Wisdom from Elders

I have been working with this woman in her late 70’s, maybe early 80’s. She has a lot of physical issues. Some of the issues are newer, occurring in the past 2-3 years, and some are much older. Today, when I was walking through the house to get to the room we were going to work in, I noticed a photo. The photo was of 3 young women, possibly in their mid to late 20’s, or early 30’s. The 3 women happen to be extremely beautiful – almost like the actresses of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. They happen to be dressed rather on the dapper side as well. 3 women, arm in arm, obviously friends, having a good time in their youth. I stopped to get a better look at it and I asked her who was in the photo. I had a feeling it was her, many decades back. She got a big smile on her face and said, “I am in the middle, my younger sister is to my right, and my best friend, who is no longer with us is to my left”. I told her it was a beautiful picture, and that they all looked so happy and carefree. This made her smile and laugh a bit. She then said, “Ahhh, yes, we were all young and went on a trip to NYC when that photo was taken. We did look so good back then”. I told her that they all looked stunning, like models, and that her good looks have stayed with her, and her good heart is also still in tact as well. This seemed to make her happy. We then continued forward to the room we were going to practice in. As we began to practice, I had her lie on her back and begin to connect to her breathing. Typical yoga stuff. As she lay there, I watched her breathing, her relaxed face, almost no expression, except that you could tell there was a smile lying below the surface of the skin which is so different than a face with little to no expression that contains a frown below it. If that makes any sense. As I watched her, I could completely see all of her beauty, her inner beauty was obvious, and her outer beauty may be a bit different, but it is essentially the same. The only difference is the value society places on youth versus the aged. In all reality, she was just as beautiful in this moment as she had been in that photo so many years ago. As we continued to practice, and she began to move, different physical issues would come up and I would ask her if a movement increased the pain or decreased it, or was it the same. She would answer and often refer to her physical issues as “old friends”. She might say, “ohh, that old friend in my knee is fine, no worse, no better, just letting me know they are still around”. She handles her physical issues, in my mind, in a zen manner. She accepts the issue, embraces it, and simply tries to understand how to deal with it. At other times, when a particular movement, or maybe if I physically adjusted her, and it felt good, a positive, gentle sensation in her body, she would smile and fully experience it, enjoy it and appreciate it. I may have taught her a class today, but the reality is I was gifted with so many life lessons from a beautiful soul. As a society we truly need to SEE the older generation and give them our attention, our time, and our love. Be willing to spend a bit of time slowing down for someone that is slowing down. Look past what society says is beautiful and see that beauty is not young or old, it is both, and the person with true beauty will always have that smile that sits below the surface of the mask that we all have.